The Tip.It Times

Issue 30299gp

In Need of Quality Reassurance

Written by and edited by tripsis

Trying to patch things up after an initial update is a bit like having a third piece of rich chocolate cake while on a diet and trying to lose weight. You can still have your cake very sparingly (it would be a shame to skip your own birthday cake), but the more often you do so, the more counterproductive and downright badly the performance with respect to the ultimate goal of losing weight. Pardon the inevitable cliché, but you just can't have your cake and eat it too. A safe statement is that a few of the most recent updates to RuneScape have had their share of hiccups. Between a quest reward involving a weapon whose strength just could not be decided, enormous and laggy pets proudly sponsored by Solomon, and a loot system that should have been rich with potential, the past few weeks haven't exactly been ideal showmanship for what a game update can be.

Let's start with the enhanced version of the sword Darklight, obtainable as a reward from the 200th quest. Poor Jagex. They worked hard to promote and create the whole update. As a by-product of multiple Power to the Player polls and heavy advertising, Jagex led players to draw comparisons between the quests Dimension of Disaster and Recipe for Disaster, causing the quest to be met with high expectations. I suppose the similarities in namesake only helped reinforce the idea. Unfortunately, the release was overshadowed to a large extent by post-quest content, in particular one reward which I will get to in a bit.

As you may know, the sword Darklight at face value is not a particularly awesome weapon. It has literally the same stat bonuses as a steel longsword. Its one redeeming feature is its efficacy against fighting demons, which gives it an invisible bonus which bumps it up several tiers worth. Still though, it was easily outclassed by higher level - but not top class - weapons. It's sort of like the let-down one might experience catching a legendary in Pokémon after watching the TV show. Legendaries perform decently, but they don't uber-own everything, nor do they burn down entire virtual towns at your command. If you wanted to cheat, you would just use Action Replay and level up 20 times and defeat any legendary hands down. I digress completing Dimension of Disaster and buying an unlock, you could make Darklight even more powerful against demons. The unlockable upgrade was in addition to another update which expanded the class of monsters to which this passive anti-demon effect would apply.

All sounds fine and dandy except for the following: the upgraded Darklight was more effective on monsters like Waterfiends and Kal'gerion demons than the best weapon in the game! Not only did Darklight outclass your standard main-hand drygore, it also has no associated repair cost, as before. They just handed out an even higher level tier (than drygore), non-degradable weapon as a quest reward. Hello 500K/hr melee xp on Waterfiends! Naturally, Jagex did ask for feedback and suggestions on how to fix the arguably overpowered weapon, but in a bizarre twist, they seemingly ignored the feedback and instead hotfixed it on a Saturday. Yes, on a Saturday. And if you're wondering, "but Arceus, where is your source?" - surprise - there is none. They didn't make any public announcement. Maybe there is a tweet buried somewhere.

As a matter of fact, they nerfed Darklight so hard, players who had bought the upgrade were left with a weaker version of the sword than the original. They were left with no way to undo that upgrade either, so one was stuck with the downgraded version. Luckily for them, an outcry on the platform that is the very epitome of 140 character eloquence - Twitter - did the trick, sort of, buffing the accuracy of the weapon back up in short order. So once again, the shining magical sword of legends can hang up on the shelf as an almost-useless niche weapon that can at most boast the remembrance of, as one Redditor put it, an "Early-Bird Bonus." [1]

Anyway, though sticks and darklights can break our bones, cute little Solo-pets will never hurt us. They might, however, lag our poor computers to death. Not long after the whole Darklight episode, Jagex released and promoted a new pet from Solomon's store. They had a competition for the best name for the pet, giving the winner and 50 runner-ups a free pet. For the record, the contest was a fine idea - and a great way to engage people in it. The pet itself can be purchased for a whopping 7 bonds. Some people commented about this being a little pricey, in that $35 (USD) demanded too much for a pet. They are actually incorrect and I would like to set the record straight - it's $42 since the price of bonds was increased recently.

At any rate, apparently a lot of people bought those expensive pets, and they wanted to show them off. RuneScape kicked off an event at the beginning of the month of May which was similar to a concept they had done before: complete tasks daily to tick them off and earn rewards throughout. You could do one task normally, and tick off another from a JMod clone by obtaining items called chits. To obtain one, you would just go find the JMod clone in a certain world in Lumbridge Crater. Here I would like to break in the phrase "easier said than done."

Jagex knows what happens when you cram a lot of people into a small area. Just the other month. I recounted my own experience with a JMod-run event I tried to attend and enjoy where about 350 people attended. Clearly more people attend a part of ongoing game content with rewards than a standalone event. There was one clone per session to service the entire population of all people on all servers interested in participating. I could say that they should have seen trouble. But maybe I'm not being fair. I mean, who could have predicted that everyone and their Drake pet were going to show up? Certainly not this player! Because that's essentially what happened!

I personally tried to go there and talk to the JMod clone. There was the minor inconvenience of, you know, finding the JMod clone, buried underneath a ton of players also searching for it. Then there was the issue of it not showing up. There were the constant disconnects, not from poor computer performance but from their servers not being able to handle all the traffic. The servers lagged so violently that they started appearing offline in the list, even though you could technically still get back in. Clicking a spot a screen away and waiting for your character to walk or run took almost a minute. And there were the pets. Sure, the pets don't cause all the lag, but I'm pretty sure they require some graphical assets to render. In fact, I would be willing to bet flying flapping Drake takes at least 2-3 times the resources to render than our characters, standing there idle and open-mouthed looking for any sign of a JMod clone.

Credit is due though, for the teams who did actually pick up the slack and make their best effort to fix the problem. Over the weekend and then on the following update day, they made several nice changes to resolve the problem. In particular they split the JMods onto 3 different worlds for popular session times, gave them a "blast" stamp effect, instantaneously helping everyone in the area gain their chit for the day, and banned pets from the crater. Those changes were a substantial help. But just like one can take excellent care of a scrape, it would have been preferable for such an abrasion to never occur in the first place. For some people - and take my word for it, there were a lot! - the effect of the severe lag may have been enough for them to say "Screw this, see you in June, RuneScape!" No one wants that to happen, but I think the point of potentially turning off a bunch of players stands. And if you think it's just me being ridiculous or picky, I'll leave you with the outcome of Jagex-run poll to think about.


For a final example, I would like to turn to a system that QA had some help testing. Or maybe I should say, QA should nominally have had some help testing this system. I'm referring to this past week's update: the looting interface. This feature had a substantial amount of time to go through testing in the beta and, I presume, passed the players' vote on it being ready for the live game. Then again, they could have been too busy importing and showing off virtual versions of virtual dyes for 3rd age to really care.

The fact is, when you have to apply a coldfix to disable a key feature of the only thing in the headline update for the week, you have an issue. Were it not for real life events recently, I would be tempted to call it a train wreck. In this case, attempting to loot with Revolution on broke or stalled the whole looting system. Considering that EoC players seem to favor Revolution quite a bit of the time, did no one test this, seriously? It also broke Warbands looting, which I can understand might have been lower to test on priorities, but still seems kind of funny.

Even assuming everything worked as intended, the implementation was still a little bizarre, especially in regards to the type of items you can choose to automatically pick up. The wealth filter and type categories don't quite mesh. As one user from another forum was none too shy about putting it [2]:


This is such a good idea but done so poorly! The loot settings are way too vague! It says "loot herblore items", but you cannot choose which items. I don't want it looting guams, should be able to choose specific which herbs or 2ndary ingreds to pick up. Or "loot weapons and armor", also, stupid. I want it to pick up rune med helms and scimitars but I don't want steel hatchets. Absolutely this update has great potential, in theory it is a beautiful idea, however, the way it was implemented was awful!"

The takeaway from all this should be that we have to hold Jagex responsible for the quality of udpates they release, and tell them what we want. Maybe we should have an update every two weeks, and have them lock a team in a windowless room to spend a week playing RuneScape and testing it. But if we act complacent with mediocre quality updates, they will become the norm. Sure, once in a while things go wrong, or there is a mistake, but it shouldn't be happening at a frequency approaching alarming levels. If you want more examples, consider the omission of the almost-obvious feature to track Golden Egg progress in the Aquarium room of your PoH, or the skillcape reworks that were anything but what anyone imagined them to look like. Things can always be improved and the drive to come up with those ideas and suggestions is perhaps one of the highlights of the RuneScape community. But at the same time, a certain level of professionalism should achieved the first time. Admittedly RuneScape code is far more difficult than an article or a guide, but I wouldn't publish a guide on our site if it had broken tables everywhere, nor would I publish an article riddled with simple spelling or grammar errors.

I hope I haven't been too harsh on Jagex - particularly, the QA team, on whose shoulders most of the blame is inevitably placed. We all want the game to be the best it can be in all aspects, even if we are quite vocal when we don't get what we want and don't show enough appreciation when a good job is done. In fact, I wanted to do something to show my good intentions. So I decided to make and photograph this cake for you, which I totally didn't steal from Google* and post it here. I just hope none of the QA team are currently trying to diet...


*Acknowledgement to for the picture. Our editors made me do it. Or the watermark, whatever.



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Tags: Game Mechanics Quests Suggestions

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